The Pursuit of Happyness (2006) – Will Smith (Chris Garner)
There are many stories of single mothers struggling to raise their kids against incredible odds, and with little help. But rarely do you hear of single fathers going through the same struggle. Chris Gardner is one of those fathers.
Gardner fought to raise his young son while homeless and living on the streets of San Francisco. Gardner, who served a brief stint in the Navy and had no education beyond high school, would eventually get back on his feet to become a millionaire stockbroker and business owner.
Gardner worked to become a top trainee at Dean Witter Reynolds. He arrived at the office early and stayed late each day, persistently making calls to prospective clients with his goal being 200 calls per day. His perseverance paid off when, in 1982, Gardner passed his Series 7 Exam on the first try to became a full employee of the firm. Eventually, Gardner was recruited by Bear Stearns & Company in San Francisco.
About four months after Jackie disappeared with their son, she returned and left him with Gardner. By then, he was earning a small salary and was able to afford rooming in a flophouse. He willingly accepted sole custody of his child; however, the rooming house where he lived did not allow children. Although he was gainfully employed, Gardner and his son secretly struggled with homelessness while he saved money for a rental house in Berkeley.
Meanwhile, none of Gardner’s co-workers knew that he and his son were homeless in the Tenderloin District of San Francisco for nearly a year. Gardner often scrambled to place his child in daycare, stood in soup kitchens and slept wherever he and his son could find safety—in his office after hours, at flophouses, motels, parks, airports, on public transport, and even in a locked bathroom at a BART station.
Concerned for Chris Jr.’s well-being, Gardner asked Reverend Cecil Williams to allow them to stay at the Glide Memorial United Methodist Church’s shelter for homeless women, now known as The Cecil Williams Glide Community House. Williams agreed without hesitation. Today, when asked what he remembers about being homeless, Christopher Gardner, Jr. recalls “I couldn’t tell you that we were homeless, I just knew that we were always having to go. So, if anything, I remember us just moving, always moving.”
After Gardner had found a home, he resumed contact with Jackie and had a second child with her in 1985 – a daughter named Jacintha. Gardner turned down Jackie’s offer for the two to get back together in a relationship but arranged for Chris Jr. and Jacintha to stay with Jackie during his long hours at work.
Gardner’s story on Black fatherhood is rarely portrayed in Hollywood or the media. That’s why it took Will Smith to get behind it, so the story could be told. Evidence that we need my black filmmakers to tell our stories. This is an important film is an inspiration to all Black Fathers who are struggling to make it happen and hold it down for their family at any mean necessary.